At last week’s workshop entitled ‘Twenty Questions with Great Entrepreneurs’, successful Connecticut founders and executives gave advice to small businesses and startups in order to help them get to the next level. The panelists convened high above the exhibitor’s hall at the Connecticut Business Showcase 2012 at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport. The conversation turned to challenges that entrepreneurs have to face today in the wake of a tough economy.
Jeffrey Klaus, panel moderator and Regional President for Webster Bank, sees government regulation as their biggest challenge. “There are a host of new trials that small businesses are facing. We’re seeing not only the pressure of global competition, we’re also starting to see more significantly then ever before the threat of regulation on small business. More government involvement can be helpful, but it can also be intrusive.”
“I think it has a lot to do with the industry that you operate within and the business model you employ. There are many companies that we work with that have decided that they would rather switch than fight – in other words, use government subsidy and programming to create and grow their businesses. But others may not be in a position to do that, so it becomes suffocating.”
Panelist David Bailey, Franklin Management Advisory Group, thinks that marketing is one of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs. “We tend to forget that it’s all about marketing. The traditional organizations had the separate silos for marketing, sales, development, and manufacturing. They would put each of these things into different departments. But I think that marketing is everything we do. You’re always marketing, whether you intend to or not. Every page on a website, any text, documents or press releases you produce, even the contacts you make — all of these revolve around marketing. From a technology point of view, for instance, it means that when you are developing an idea, you need to do that with a marketing mindset. The idea may be wonderful, but is it viable from a marketing point of view?”
Panelist Manish Chowdhary, Founder and CEO of GoECart, thinks one of the biggest challenges facing entrepreneurs is finding a way to prove their business model. “Viability of the business model is even more critical today; rather than going off on a tangent with an idea that may or may not work. Startups, whether funded or not, should invest a lot of time trying to ascertain and test the viability and economics of their business. They ought to spend more time on strategy, customer development and creating a strong business model before anything else.”
Chowdhary also believes that entrepreneurs need to be flexible and not just cling to one plan of action. His thinking is that entrepreneurs and small businesses need to be able to move with the market and if they fail, they need to take the lessons learned and apply them to the future. “Nobody likes to fail, that’s just part of the entrepreneur spirit; and if I do fail, I want to fail fast. Failure is a series of shots that you take, like reinventing the business model — you try something and it doesn’t work. That’s okay, the only thing you can be guilty of is not changing course.
“I want to provoke you, I want to challenge what you think because many times, being an entrepreneur you say to yourself, ‘I am staying the course and I’m going to go right through it no matter what happens. Storm, calm — I’m going to go through it’. How stupid is that? Unless you change your navigation, you’re going to get caught right in the middle, you’re going to be tossed around, and you’ll have no energy to get there. It’s counter intuitive, but people mistake not changing for persistence, patience and perseverance.